Critical Art Ensemble: Disturbances book launch with Steve Kurtz

A joint event with Four Corners Books and introduction by Steve Kurtz to mark the launch of Critical Art Ensemble: Disturbances, a landmark handbook for activists in art, theory, science and politics.A joint event with Four Corners Books and introduction by Steve Kurtz to mark the launch of Critical Art Ensemble: Disturbances, a landmark handbook for activists in art, theory, science and politics.

Book lauch with introduction by Steve Kurtz.

Since its formation in 1987, Critical Art Ensemble has set out to explore the intersections between art, critical theory, technology and political activism. The award-winning collective of tactical media practitioners has exhibited and performed in a variety of venues internationally, from the street to the museum to the internet. Disturbances is the first book to assess the group’s 25-year history, examining the environmental, political, and bio-technological themes of their various initiatives.

In the publication, each project is presented by the group itself, from their early live multimedia productions; to their development of models of electronic civil disobedience, digital resistance, and contestational biology and ecology; to their most recent tactical media projects.

In 2006 Arts Catalyst commissioned Marching Plague, a complex multi-media project which revealed the farcical failures of governmental germ warfare programs.

Publication details

Disturbances is a landmark handbook for activists in art, theory, science and politics, published by Four Corners Books, $40.00, Pbk, 8 x 10.75 in., 272 pgs, 250 color, 60 b&w, publication 31/10/2012

Associated events

2pm Wednesday 3 October, free  public lecture by Steve Kurtz at New Academic Building (NAB) LG02, Goldsmiths College, University of London

5pm Saturday 6 October, short talk by Steve Kurtz at Marcus Campbell Art Books, 43 Holland Street, London SE1 9JR

Websites

Critical Art Ensemble

Disturbances

Four Corners Books

Marcus Campbell Books, London

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Cinema as Primatology Edinburgh Arts Festival panel discussion

A panel discussion about the development of Primate Cinema: Apes as Family being exhibited in the Sculpture Court at Edinburgh College of Art during the Edinburgh Art Festival 2012

DNA sequencing has placed humans firmly within the great apes, so how do our cognitive abilities differ from those of chimpanzees?  Creativity is considered to be a divide between humans and other species, but do we share basic preferences for novelty and perhaps even form and content with our closest relations? The symposium will explore similarities and differences in perception, cognition and socio-emotional behaviour between humans and chimpanzees, through the perspectives of artists Rachel Mayeri and Andrea Roe, and vet Andrew Gardiner who worked on a Wellcome Trust Medical Humanities Project entitled 'Pedigree Chums: science, medicine and the remaking of the dog in the 20th century', collaborating with colleagues at CHSTM, Manchester. 

The panel discussion was chaired by Rob La Frenais, who commissioned Rachel Mayeri's video installation Primate Cinema: Apes as Family.

Websites

www.edinburghartfestival.com
www.ed.ac.uk

 

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A Conversation on Science in Contemporary Performance

An informal conversation event led by Vivienne Glance, Arts Catalyst's writer-in-residence

This informal conversation on science in contemporary performance brought together a small invited gathering of artists, writers, scientists and theatre practitioners. It will be led by Vivienne Glance who is Arts Catalyst's writer-in-residency during September 2012.

Vivienne Glance

Vivienne Glance is Arts Catalyst’s writer in residence for three weeks from 3– 21 September. Vivienne is a playwright, performer and poet from Australia. Her theatre work has been presented in UK, USA and Australia. Her latest play The Cat in the Box, an “absurd comedy with a dose of quantum mechanics”, premiered at the Blue Room Theatre, Perth, in August 2012. Her poetry has appeared in journals, anthologies and online publications. Her poetry collections are A Simple Rain, published by Lethologica Press (2012), and The Softness of Water, published by Sunline Press (2009). Vivienne is currently enrolled as a PhD candidate at the University of Western Australia, researching representations of science in performance and writing a full-length performance work.

Website

Vivienne Glance

Game of Life

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Novel Forms & New Materialities

Melanie Jackson, Philip Ball and Esther Leslie discuss the ‘invisible era’ of material culture

'Novel Forms & New Materialities’ explores the radical transformations to our material world provoked by contemporary science and technology. It asks how engagement with new forms and modes of material performance promises to conjure into existence unseen materialities, narratives and possibilities. An  evening of presentations, film extracts and discussion follows an afternoon creative writing workshop. You are invited to book for one or both.

As molecular biology and nanotechnology converge, promising a proliferation of new, designed biological entities and smart materials, how is our physical environment and visual culture affected? What is at stake in these manipulations of material at this this scale? How might this reshaped matter in turn shape our visual, tactile world, as well as our dreams?

Science writer Philip Ball sets the context and considers what cultural,sociological and scientific factors have enabled these technological advancements, and our changing relationship with materials in this new “invisible era”. 

Artist Melanie Jackson and writer Esther Leslie have been collaborating on an investigation into the impulse for transformation and novel forms. Contemporary science re-imagines biological and chemical function as an engineering substrate, a complex fully programmable animate object, opening up a potential for us to “grow” any form. Goethe's idea of the Urpflanze - a primordial plant that contains within itself an infinity of potential forms – recurs startlingly in the present moment when matter, from the molecule up, is coerced to adopt fantastical forms and exhibit new behaviours. They will present readings and extracts from a forthcoming film essay and exhibition The Urpflanze (Part 2).

Afternoon writing workshop, ‘Using Biological Themes to Engineer New Fiction’, with Rachel Rodman

Rachel Rodman demonstrates how existing literary works can be recreated using techniques from molecular biology. In this workshop, we will explore metaphors comparing texts and organisms, and examine how “genetically” altered works can serve as starting points in the composition of new fiction. 

Limited places. Early booking recommended. 

Rachel Rodman earned a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin in 2008 and has since worked to promote innovative collaborations between fiction writers and scientists. She has taught writing workshops at the University of Wisconsin, Birkbeck, and Middlesex University. Her writing work combine themes from the biological sciences and from literature/creative writing. She has presented her work at Kingston University and at the 2010 NAWE Conference. Examples of her work can be found at LabLit, PANK, and The Human Genre Project:
http://www.pankmagazine.com/author/rachel-rodman/
http://www.humangenreproject.com/page.php?id=117
http://www.lablit.com/article/713 
http://www.lablit.com/article/679 

Speakers' Biographies

Melanie Jackson is an artist and a lecturer at Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. Recent solo exhibitions include The Urpflanze (Part 1), The Drawing Room, London (2010) Road Angel, Arnolfini, Bristol (2007), Made In China, Matt’s Gallery, London (2005). She won the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007. Jackson's Urplanze (Part 2), commissioned by Arts Catalyst, will be presented at the John Hansard Gallery in 2013.
http://www.melaniejackson.net

Philip Ball is a science writer with a background in chemistry and physics. He worked for Nature magazine for 20 years and has release a succession of books including Made to Measure: New Materials for the 21st Century and Stories of the Invisible: A Guided Tour of Molecules.
http://www.philipball.co.uk/

Esther Leslie is Professor of Political Aesthetics in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck. She is the author of Synthetic Worlds: Nature, Art and the Chemical Industry (2005). Leslie is collaborating with Melanie Jackson on her new work Urpflanze (Part 2).
www.militantesthetix.co.uk

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Dark Places: artists investigations of technological history

A session at the British Rocketry Oral History Project (BROHP) conference 2007

Arts Catalyst presented the work of contemporary artists who explore the cultural and architectural legacy of the Cold War nuclear and space programmes as part of the British Rocketry Oral History Project (BROHP) conference 2007.

Speakers included the novelist and journalist James Flint, artist Louise K Wilson, and curator Rob La Frenais. The session was chaired by Nicola Triscott, Director of Arts Catalyst.

James Flint discussed some of the issues raised in his novel The Book of Ash which wove American development of nuclear science into a gripping story of art, atoms, alchemy, politics and paranoia, and was inspired by the American “nuclear sculptor” James L. Acord. Louise K Wilson‘s artworks explore perceptual, social and cultural aspects of science and technology. In A Record of Fear, she created sound and video works for Orford Ness, Suffolk – formerly a secret military testing site. To create Spadeadam, she investigated a UK Cold War test site, now used by Britain's Royal Air Force as an electronic warfare training range. Rob La Frenais reviewed some of Arts Catalyst’s art projects in the fields of space research and nuclear science and its work negotiating artists’ access restricted sites of science and technology in the UK and abroad.

Speakers

James Flint is the author of the novels Habitus (1998); 52 Ways to Magic America (2002), which won the Amazon.co.uk Bursary Award for the year 2000; and The Book of Ash (2004), winner of a 2003 Arts Council Writers’ Award. He has also published a short story collection Soft Apocalypse – Twelve Tales from the Turn of the Millennium (2004). His short fiction has appeared in collections published by Penguin Books, the New English Library and the ICA. When it was published in France in 1992, Habitus was judged as in the top five foreign novels of that year's Rentrée Literaire. Time Out called it "probably the best British fiction début of the last five years". He has worked as a section editor for Wired UK and science editor of the technology and art periodical Mute, and has written features and reviews for many national newspapers and magazines, including The Guardian, The Observer, The Daily Telegraph, Time Out and Arena.

Louise K Wilson is a visual artist, whose work includes installations, sound pieces and video. Her recent work which springs from a curiosity into how the technology of flight affects our physiological states and psychological selves. To this end, she has participated in a movement experiment in zero gravity, co-opted a team of air traffic controllers in formation cycling on Newcastle Airport runway and been a passenger in an aerobatics plane repeatedly looping the loop. Previous associations have included the Montreal Neurological Institute, the Science Museum, London, the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre, Russia, the RSPB and Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service. Exhibitions have included Artists Airshow, RAF Farnborough (2004); Arena, Baltic (2003); Blue Streak, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle (2003), Runway/ Spadeadam, Gallery TPW, Toronto (2003) and A Record of Fear, Orford Ness, for Commissions East (2005). Her video Spadeadam is in the Archive at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Rob La Frenais, Curator, Arts Catalyst

Nicola Triscott, Director, Arts Catalyst

 

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The Urpflanze (Part 2)

A new commissioned body of work and installation by Melanie Jackson, shown in Transformism at John Hansard Gallery, University of Southampton in January 2013, and as a solo show at Flat-Time House, London, in March 2013.

In a series of moving image works and ceramic sculptures, Melanie Jackson continues her ongoing investigation into mutability and transformation, which takes its lead from Goethe’s concept of an imaginary primal plant, the Urpflanze, that contained coiled up within it the potential to unfurl all possible future forms. Contemporary science likewise imagines the potential to grow or print any form we can envisage, by recasting physical, chemical and biological function as an engineering substrate that can be programmed into being. These emerging technologies present new possibilities for the instrumentalisation of life on a previously unimagined scale.

In March 2013, Jackson's multifaceted work was installed throughout the ground floor of Flat Time House, the former home and studio of artist John Latham (1921-2006).

In the eighteenth century, the development of sophisticated techniques of ceramic production signified a victory of chemistry, culture and capital over formlessness. It pushed the capacity of the material to accommodate highly detailed representations, to radiate colour and sheen, to perform. Like clay, liquid crystals also have a visceral biological and mineral morphology that can collapse into formlessness, whilst harbouring the potential to assume (or emit the image of) any form. The mastery of the material is played out in a desire for the real in high definition, and a longing for the appearance of unknown and fantastical forms.

Jackson’s exhibition extends fairytale themes of absurd disruptions in vegetal scale, from Zola's ‘revolutionary’ carrot to the fantasies of remediation that science may have in store for us. The work begins in the botanical garden and leads us to the laboratory, from the clay pits to the factory floor, from its own animated voxels to the interior of the screen, and the forms and processes of its own production.

Melanie Jackson has collaborated with writer Esther Leslie on the production of a text that has informed the work and a publication that will be distributed as part of the exhibition.

In her essay for the exhibition guide, Isobel Harbison describes: “Jackson’s is an expansive, ambitious and intuitive work not easily reducible to cursory description. Her attention to the illusory surface textures of protean forms is not solely attentive to liquid crystals but extends metaphorically to other social and scientific developments (a fictional Jack-and-the-Beanstalk becomes a modern genetic scientist, or crystals self-organise into a palace whose display function changes consumer society forever). Perhaps most interestingly, her work carries within it a reflection on the new nature and task of the contemporary artist. Jackson’s real enquiry seems to be about the modified face of representative sculpture in the digital age, from Greek mythology’s morphology to natural biology, and from the produce of the clay factory floor to the process of 3d printing.Significantly, her sculptural inquiry is brought forward in video in conjunction with three-dimensional form embodying both kinds of contemporary physical encounter, now as often on screen as in the flesh.”
 

Biographical information

Melanie Jackson inhabits different tropes of art making to interrogate possibilities of representation against the engaged practices of the world. She is interested in ways in which thought and affect is conducted through the material, and much of her work has explored this against the context of work, production and the flow of international capital.  She is currently investigating the relationships between nature and technology through a series of experiments with fauna and flora, and the technologies available to her. Melanie is a lecturer at Slade School of Fine Art, her solo exhibitions include The Urpflanze (Part 1), The Drawing Room, London (2010), Road Angel, Arnolfini, Bristol (2007), Made In China, Matt’s Gallery, London (2005).  She won the Jerwood Drawing Prize in 2007.

Support

Melanie Jackson's commission has been supported by a Wellcome Trust Arts Award and the Slade School of Fine Art. The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England.

Website links

Melanie Jackson

Flat Time House

 

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Republic of the Moon, Liverpool

A touring exhibition of artists' works that reimagine the future of the Moon. Combining lunar narratives, fantasies and futures, Republic  of the Moon reclaims the Moon for artists, idealists, and dreamers.

As the players in the new 21st century race for the Moon line up – the USA rejoining China, India and Russia and jostling with private corporations interested in exploiting the Moon’s resources – a group of artists are declaring a Republic of the Moon: a ‘micronation’ for alternative visions of lunar life.

Republic of the Moon challenges utilitarian plans of lunar mines and military bases with artists’ imaginings and interventions. Combining beguiling fantasies, personal encounters, and playful appropriations of space habitats and scientific technologies, Republic of the Moon reclaims the Moon for artists, idealists, and dreamers.

The last race to the Moon was driven by the political impulses of the Cold War, but shaped by extraordinary visions of space created by writers, film-makers, and artists, from Jules Verne, Lucien Rudaux, and Vasily Levshin, to HG Wells, Stanislav Lem and Stanley Kubrick. Can artists’ quixotic visions reconcile our romantic notions of the Moon with its colonised future, and help us to reimagine our relationship with our natural satellite in the new space age?

Curated by Arts Catalyst and FACT, Republic of the Moon includes major new commissions by Agnes Meyer-Brandis and WE COLONISED THE MOON, and works by Leonid Tishkov, Andy Gracie, Liliane Lijn and Sharon Houkema.

The Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, Agnes Meyer-Brandis’ poetic-scientific investigations weave fact, imagination, storytelling and myth, past, present and future. In this major new work  the artist develops an ongoing narrative based on the book ‘The Man in the Moone’, written by the English bishop Francis Godwin in 1603, in which the protagonist flies to the Moon in a chariot towed by ‘moon geese’. Meyer-Brandis has actualised this concept by raising eleven moon geese from birth in Italy, giving them astronauts’ names*, imprinting them on herself as goose-mother, training them to fly and taking them on expeditions. The artist will build a remote Moon analogue habitat for the geese, which will be operated from a control room within the gallery. (* Neil, Svetlana, Gonzales, Valentina, Friede, Juri, Buzz, Kaguya-Anousheh, Irena, Rakesh, Konstantin-Hermann).

Luring us onto the surface of the Moon, WE COLONISED THE MOON (Sue Corke and Hagen Betzwieser) will create an immersive audience experience, Enter At Own Risk. For this new commission, the artists will create an intimate immersive installation in the form of a laboratory-like room in which a lone astronaut tenderly gardens a group of rocks, spraying them periodically with the smell of the Moon - a scent the artists have had synthesised based on reports from the Apollo crew.  The artists question what is real and what is imagined? the nature of the fake and the authentic object, the art of showmanship and illusion through this experimental performance piece, drawing on the entertainment iconography of early astronaut training.

Leonid Tishkov’s Private Moon, by contrast, brings the Moon down to us. Tishkov tells the story of a man who met the Moon and stayed with her for the rest of his life. In a series of photographs, the artist pairs images of his private moon with verse which describes how the Moon helps us to overcome our loneliness in the universe by uniting us around it. Tishkov and his illuminated moon have travelled the world for almost ten years. He has a dream to fly with her to the Moon.

Transforming the everyday into the mesmerisingly beautiful, Sharon Houkema’s M3, created with characteristic simplicity with an overhead projector and a bucket of water, conjures a moon so tantalisingly close you can almost hold it.

Interweaving artistic metaphor and scientific rigour, Andy Gracie‘s DIY-astrobiology experiment Drosophila Titanus attempts to select and breed an organism – a new strain of fruit fly – that might survive on Titan, a moon of Saturn. The artist recreates the environmental and atmospheric conditions found on Titan using everyday materials such as vodka, smoke alarms and a bicycle pump. The first iteration of the experiment was performed by Gracie with Kuaishen Auson, Janine Fenton and Meredith Walsh, in Laboratory Life co-commissioned by Arts Catalyst and Lighthouse earlier this year.

In Liliane Lijn’s moonmeme, the artist reveals her concept to write on the Moon from the Earth using a laser beam. The word ‘SHE' is projected onto the surface of the moon, the meaning of this word being gradually transformed as the Moon moves through its phases, the work combines territorial appropriation, the technological extension of human consciousness and mythologies. moonmeme is a symbolic union of opposites and an homage to the feminine principal of transformation and renewal.

The artists in Republic of the Moon regard the lunar orb not as a resource to be exploited but as a heavenly body that belongs to us all. Who will be the first colonisers of the Moon? Perhaps it should be the artists.

Occupy the Moon

To coincide with the opening of Republic of the Moon, Arts Catalyst has commissioned Tony White to write a short fiction Occupy the Moon.

Supported by

Republic of the Moon is a touring exhibition and programme curated by Arts Catalyst and FACT. It has been made possible with Grants for the Arts support from Arts Council England.

Moon Goose Analogue: Lunar Migration Bird Facility, 2011 links directly to Meyer-Brandis's, Moon Goose Colony, 2011, a project during her residency at Pollinaria, Italy, the site of the remote analogue habitat where the artist has raised and houses the colony of moon geese. Pollinaria, Italy

FACT, AV Festival 2012, Arts Council England

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Uncontrolled Hermetic

An installation by Neal White, commissioned for the CleanRooms exhibition

Uncontrolled Hermetic remodelled the activities and methods of the controlled areas or clean rooms used by scientists and manufacturers to conduct experiments and build specialist equipment. The visitor fulfilled the final part of this system, as the contaminating or contaminated body, the weakest link in the ultraclean technology chain: a human being. The installation featured a single life-size human figure 'bagged' in a bunny suit made of felt. The figure stands outside a clean room, which houses a Victorian drawing machine that makes self-generated drawings.

Neal White's work has engaged with the methods, structures, systems and agendas relating to scientific and technological development. He became interested in clean rooms whilst working on recent projects in genetics and pharmaceutical laboratories in the UK at the Human Genome Mapping Project and Pfizer Research and during a research visit to space laboratories in Marseille, France UK Presentations.

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Silvers Alter

Silvers Alter is an interactive installation that takes the form of a large-scale projection within which human forms "live"

This is a stage for artificial evolution where human ‘control models’ and their created offspring are the subjects for the audience to manipulate and mate. The ‘beings’ that the viewer creates have never existed before - the process of selection generates creatures and sounds with their own individual resonance. The audience exerts selective choice to shape the flow of random mutation and therefore directs the evolutionary course. The audience creates the ‘artworks’ in a real-time experience.
 
The installation takes the form of a large scale back-projection on which human forms ‘live’. These figures are changed by the audience’s presence and movement within the space. Interactivity is very physical. It encourages a social, physical and verbal interaction between people before the interaction with technology.
 
The project is an experimental observation of the development of consciousness and science. It is not a fictive game with still unexamined possibilities of genetics and it does not aim to popularise scientific discoveries. It raises many questions: To what extent are we prepared to participate in all that we have made possible and that we aspire to make possible for ourselves? How do we make decisions about who to propagate and who to terminate? When does data become information become knowledge?
 
It gives the audience the power to create, eliminate and stare, to immortalize their created offspring in data image banks and DNA profiles. Generations are displayed in the growing archive of screen-grab prints pinned around the space – a record of the changing population over time - and different populations will emerge from different locations, countries, nations. Decisions and their effect 10 generations, 100 generations later can be seen – like evolution in fast forward.

 

Artist's Biography

Gina Czarnecki works in time-based and digital media making single screen, photographic and installation work. Her recent work has focussed on the ethical and cultural issues raised from the scientific and technological advances in the fields of genetic engineering as well as on their future commercial and non-commercial uses. 

 

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GenTerra

Participatory theatre project by Critical Art Ensemble and Beatriz da Costa, shown as part of the CleanRooms exhibition

GenTerra is a performance by the artists Critical Art Ensemble and Beatriz da Costa. GenTerra is the name used by the artists to represent a company dealing with "transgenics" – the isolation of one or more genes from one or more organisms to create another, new organism. Products created through this process – for example, transgenically modified foods – have often caused controversy. GenTerra claims to produce organisms that help solve ecological or social problems.

GenTerra is essentially a participatory "theater" comprising a lab tent, four computer stations displaying the company’s informational CD-Rom, and a bacteria release machine. On entering the space, the public is invited to discuss the facts and issues surrounding transgenics with the artists and scientists, who are dressed in white lab coats. Materials are then provided to allow people to make and store their own transgenic bacteria in the GenTerra tent. Visitors become actively involved in the area of risk assessment by deciding whether or not to release bacteria from one of the twelve petri dishes of the release machine. Eleven of the dishes have wild (non-transgenic) bacteria samples taken locally, and one contains the transgenic bacteria. Should the dish with the transgenic bacteria be selected, a robotic arm will pick up the lid of the dish, leave it open for about 5 seconds, and then replace the lid on the dish. Participants are informed that the transgenic bacteria they may be releasing is a benign, crippled lab strain that is released in laboratories on a routine basis.

By setting itself up as a corporation that is driven by profit, but also by a sense of social responsibility, GenTerra highlights the complex relationship between for-profit ventures and the ethical considerations involved in transgenics research and product development. The project aims to make the general public more aware of transgenics, and the facts and fictions that surround it.

GenTerra was created in consultation with Dr. Bob Ferrell, Department of Genetics, University of Pittsburgh, and Linda Kauffman, Department of Molecular Biology, the Mellon Institute, along with Beatriz da Costa, Robotic Art Researcher, Carnegie Mellon University, Semi Ryu and Garth Zeglin, Robotics Consultants, Carnegie Mellon University.

Critical Art Ensemble is a collective of five artists of various specializations dedicated to exploring the intersections between art, technology, radical politics, and critical theory. Their books include: The Electronic Disturbance (1994); Electronic Civil Disobedience and Other Unpopular Ideas (2001); Flesh Machine (1998) and Digital Resistance: Explorations in Tactical Media (2001). Since 1996, biotech projects - the most recent of which is GenTerra – have been their central initiative.
 

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